DIY Teaching Degrees

Dan Tehan, the Federal minister for screwing up education, has announced a rescue package for Australia’s universities. This was clearly necessary, since the universities are no longer in a position to fleece international students. The package guarantees funding for the universities, and introduces a range of cheap six-month courses in “areas considered national priorities”.

The government’s package is “unashamedly focused on domestic students”. That was inevitable since:

a) the government, and Tehan in particular, doesn’t give a stuff about international students;*

b) Tehan is a born to rule asshole, entirely unfamiliar with the notion of shame.

And, what of these “priority” courses? According to the ABC,

The Government said prices would be slashed for six-month, remotely delivered diplomas and graduate certificates in nursing, teaching, health, IT and science provided by universities and private tertiary educators.

OK, so ignoring all the other nonsense, we have a few questions about those six-month online teaching diplomas:

  • Will such a diploma entitle the bearer to teach?
  • If not, then what is it good for?
  • If so, then what is a school to do with the mix of 6-month diploma-qualified applicants and the standard 24-month Masters-qualified applicants?
  • And, if so, what does that tell us of the intrinsic worth of those standard 24-month Masters?

To be clear, we have no doubt that six months is plenty sufficient for the initial training of a teacher, and indeed is at least five months too many. We also have no doubt that a diploma-trained teacher has the same chance to be a good teacher as someone who has suffered a Masters. They have a better chance, in fact, since there will have been less time to pervert natural instincts and feelings and techniques with poisonous edu-babble.

But, good or bad, who is going to give these diploma teachers a shot? Then, if the teachers should be and are given a shot, who is going to address the contradiction, the expensive and idiotic orthodoxy of demanding two year post-grad teaching degrees?

 

*) Or anyone, but international students are near the bottom.

44 Replies to “DIY Teaching Degrees”

  1. Forget the teachers …. It’s the 6 month nursing diplomas that really worry me.

    ‘Private tertiary educators’ ….. We’ve all seen how well that works out …. (Then again, they won’t have the ATM’s ahem I mean international students to screw over. It will only be vulnerable domestic students that get shafted).

    1. Hi, JF. Yes, the idea of a 6-month-trained nurse is more frightening. The whole thing is pretty clearly half-baked nonsense. But the irony with teachers is that six months’ training suffices, and is preferable.

      1. Indeed. And I wonder if they’ll have to do all that Vampires portfolio bullshit.

        So we go from 12 month diplomas to 24 month so-called master’s degrees (an insult to what an ‘old fashioned’ Master’s Degree represented) to 6 month certificates.

  2. It may well be that these “courses” do one of only two things:

    Qualify you to enrol in a longer qualification.
    Work as a nurse/teacher assistant

    If I could be bothered reading the details in greater depth I might find out for sure, but wine is more interesting.

    (Or vodka in Marty’s case)

    1. Thanks, RF. Yes, it occurred to me that this 6-month stuff may qualify a person to be a teacher-lite, or whatever. Even if true, I think it makes naked the lie of the idiotic professionalisation of teaching. As for the details, if they currently exist I couldn’t find them. But it’s Dan Tehan. Whatever it is, it is garbage. The man is a half-wit, and a menace.

  3. I took the key word here to be “micro-credentials”, and based on what comes up when you google that, it doesn’t seem to be for initial teacher training, but for teachers wanting new specialties. Like a Graduate Certificate in STEM Education. I’m not sure what it is good for exactly.

    1. Thanks, S-T, and good question. Clearly, the real point is to shovel money to universities, so they don’t go broke. But what “micro-credential” is supposed to be, and what it is supposedly good for, God only knows.

    2. Come now, s-t. The actual certificates may be good as toilet paper.

      (And people wonder why education is in such a mess ….)

        1. Already have one …. ! (As well as a graduate certificate in Exclamation Reclamation).

          The Department of Education are past masters in so-called (compulasory) micro-credentials (modules) (most of which can be done in 6 minutes, my pet cat helps me answer many of the questions) – everything from Ergonomics to Manual Handling.

          Some fun reading:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_with_fraudulent_diplomas

          https://www.oddee.com/item_99699.aspx

  4. STEM is a four letter word… normally I like four letter words: beer, wine, free… but STEM is a four letter word I do not like for many reasons.

    The problem with the “universities” training teachers, is that teaching is not (forgive me anyone who thinks otherwise) an academic skill to learn. It is practical and experience based, so the so called “graduate school of education” at one university for example, tries to make the process something that it is not and, as Marty has alluded to many times, misses the point entirely.

    Does it take 6 months to train a teacher? perhaps. If the whole time was spent in the presence of another, highly competent, teacher.

    …and I’m going to stop now before this becomes a rant.

    1. Re: Does it take 6 months to train a teacher? perhaps. If the whole time was spent in the presence of another, highly competent, teacher.

      I agree. But to quote the Ferengi, “Where’s the profit!?” (see Rule of Aquisition #2)

      1. “Damn, they’re qualified, how do we milk them for money now?”
        “I know, let’s invent the VIT and make them complete PD hours, every year, that will make a different group of people very rich.”

    2. I strongly agree teaching is practical and experienced based but I feel forgoing theoretical knowledge about what teaching is shouldn’t be done. I did a Masters degree and there is a lot of flaf and waffle however it taught how to see through the bullshit and be critical. Through all the academic stuff, including conducting my own research project, I learnt how to be reflective about what I do as a teacher. This I feel is very important skill (not everyone will be reflective in a honest way and doesn’t come naturally) to have in order to learn from the practical experiences and improve.

      1. Your experience is quite a useful perspective and IF (and that is a big IF) all pre-service teachers were as involved in their learning as you appear to be I would be more inclined to agree. Having worked for a major university in the teaching of pre-service teachers in a Masters degree, I am of the belief that very few (certainly not none, but very few) gain these insights.

        1. I agree, it is very much up to the person to be involved in their learning. I wonder how any course (short or long) can support pre-service teachers to be like that. Maybe the instructors? Maybe the teaching experiences afforded?

          1. I lost my job when the university went on a cost-cutting binge a few years ago. They “wanted to partner with schools” which meant getting schools to agree to take a MINIMUM of (depending on the location of the school) 8 to 12 pre-service teachers each semester. A lot of schools that previously offered placements withdrew at this point.

            Essentially, though, the learning of what I call the “trade” aspect of teaching happens entirely on placement and when the range of placement schools decreases because universities want to use their “brand” to get more placements, which means more enrolments (read $) for them… the whole system sort of falls apart a bit.

          2. How can a course support pre-service teachers? Potii, even in principle I think the answer is “little”, and in practice I think the current answer is “effectively zero”. It is agreed that above everything else, teachers learn by teaching. So, yes, of course teaching rounds, with a (presumably) good teacher to supervise is critical. But, what else? What of the course itself?

            Most importantly, you suggest that the Masters taught you how to be reflective, but I don’t believe you. If you are reflective (and from your comments on this blog I believe you are), that has come from you and your attitude to being a teacher. Good teachers have always, of necessity, reflected upon their teaching, and they’ve never needed a Masters to, um, master it.

            You also write that one shouldn’t forego “theoretical knowledge about what teaching is”. Really? What theoretical knowledge? Ignoring the mountain of theoretical anti-knowledge that accompanied it, how has this theoretical knowledge actually improved your teaching in more than a trivial manner?

            You also write that the “bullshit” of the Masters taught you to be critical. As SRK suggests, that’s beyond damning with faint praise; it’s damning with damnation.

            1. I find that what I have read about working memory and long term memory and in conjunction with what I’ve read about scaffolding and explicit teaching (including from some stuff you’ve linked) it allows me to plan how to explain concepts well. I’ve worked at a few school of vastly varying social economic statuses and have found success in my approach. Also, I find sometimes from experiences of teaching it is hard to decipher why something has happened and having that knowledge has allowed to understand. So that’s why I’ve valued theoretical knowledge.

                1. Not all that stuff was obvious to me and some was at different degrees of “obvious”. I guess for others it probably is.

                  1. Hi, Potii. Perhaps these ideas weren’t so obvious to you when you were first presented them, in the midst of a theoretical swamp. But I don’t see how any of it wouldn’t become apparent early on to a thoughtful practising teacher, even if the language (or jargon) wasn’t available to express it. Unless, of course, the teacher has previously been stuffed full with a smorgasbord of nonsense. As for some theory or knowledge helping with that reflection in a non-trivial manner, I remain sceptical. There’s a competition you can enter …

                    One very important point you raised about teaching degrees, which I neglected to address, is the (potential) value of “instructors”. I’m not sure what you mean by that term, but it is a critical truth that the teacher is at the heart of teaching. (In particular, “student-centred learning” is lunacy.) That holds as much for teaching student-teachers as it does for teaching younger students. And, you can still find great teachers within the awfullest of systems, even if the system actively disdains them.

      2. Without wanting to come across as pure snark, it’s no virtue of an ostensibly educational program that it encourages critical thinking simple because it’s so poorly designed and implemented.

        Here’s a contrasting anecdote: Prior to my teacher training, I had the good fortune to get an education that enabled me to see through the bullshit. I did not gain anything from the teacher training program’s pseudo-intellectual forays into theoretical wilderness. If anything, it engendered resentment and led to some unsavoury confrontations with the people administering the course. Fortunately I was able to graduate from the course with a PGradDip and a qualification to teach, and I learned far more about the job and improved much more by working with, and taking advice and support from, the people at the coalface. The thought of spending another 12 months with those charlatans in the pursuit of what they fraudulently describe as “research” was excruciating.

        I’m not sure about Marty’s figure of 6 months, but given that a 12 month PGradDip might afford a pre-service teacher with about the equivalent of 10 weeks of school placement – and this is certainly the most valuable part of the program – that figure is probably not far wrong.

        1. I’m not particularly arguing for a course, just that theoretic knowledge supports learning from your teaching experiences. How you learn that is a different debate.

          I wonder what the bullshit you saw through was? From my first prac teaching experience it was clear what was bullshit and what worked (e.g. constructivism didn’t hold any water, while Vygotsky’s ideas were not too bad).

    3. I recall that Peter Hilton (a British mathematician who worked in the US) thought that it was strange to talk about “driver education” and “teacher training”.

      1. And I think it is odd that when a ton of bricks is sent from Melbourne to Sydney on a truck it is called a SHIPMENT but when you send it on a boat it is called CARGO.

        As Marty said, funny. Might use it somewhere.

  5. I completed the Master of Teaching (Secondary) through Deakin recently. I am a new teaching graduate. I did the entire course on-line except for placements. I enjoyed almost every part of the course – I didn’t like group work.

    I agree with the tenor of the discussion so far, that the discipline of education does not do itself any favours with the jargon.

    Teacher-centred/student-centred? In class recently, two students asked me to help them with a calculator problem. I quickly saw that they did not have enough decimal places in their display to solve the problem. I told them that they should fix this on their calculators. “How do we do that?” they asked. I replied, “Google is your friend” and walked off. Ten minutes later I came back – and they were beaming. Google, video, et voila! “Now we can do anything!” one of them exclaimed. A bit of an over-statement. Is this teacher-centred or student-centred?

    Much of what is covered in many (all?) university courses is not particularly relevant to the students’ future employment. Indeed, much of what is covered in school is not particularly relevant to the students’ future employment. Teaching is no exception in this matter.

    I recall an academic from a major university complaining to me that his third year students did not understand measure theory. When I asked the obvious question about why third year students need to know about measure theory, he replied that they need it to understand operator theory in fourth year.

    1. Hi, Terry. You’ve written some interesting things, and some very strange things. Most importantly, why are you hammering “students’ future employment”, as if that is the be and end all of education.

      Secondly, your example is “teacher-centred”; any suggestion that not doing everything for a student is somehow new or somehow revolutionary is ridiculous. Teaching is teacher-centred.

      Thirdly your measure theory story is cute, but contrived and dangerously misleading. There is nothing wrong and much right with the principle that a “mathematics major” or “pure mathematics major” contains necessary topics of a necessary standard at necessary stages. This principle, however, has been thoroughly trashed at most Australian universities, even the “major” ones. And, in particular, measure theory, which is fundamental to all modern analysis, is one of the subjects that has been most regularly trashed.

      (You’ve touched a nerve. To be fair, the trashing of measure theory subjects has been partly because most analysts have been so awful at teaching it, which provided me with good summer gigs until I was blacklisted by AMSI cretins. But it remains the case that “too hard” and “don’t need it at the ABS” is a really stupid way to design a university mathematics curriculum.)

      Lastly, you wrote that you agree with the “tenor” of the discussion here, but that you also “enjoyed almost every part” of your Deakin course. Do you care to elaborate? (I enjoyed almost no part of my course: exactly one good lecture, exactly one good paper, and exactly one good book (the message of which the lecturer didn’t understand).)

      1. I was talking about future employment because some comments above were discussing the relationship between what is covered in teaching courses and the experience in the classroom later. I have often heard this point of view, and realised that this is true of so many courses.

        What should we be teaching in schools? How should we be teaching it?

        Sorry Marty to touch a nerve about measure theory; it was not intentional. I realise that you are an expert on measure theory. Measure theory is indeed fundamental to analysis and a beautiful subject – that should be sufficient justification for putting it in the mathematics curriculum at university.

        Many years ago, statistics departments in US universities were sometimes referred to as measure theory departments because measure theory was so heavily emphasised in graduate courses in probability and statistics. Then the fashion changed to focus on data analysis. Measure theory was replaced by box-plots.

        As for my Deakin course, I did not enjoy group work. Maybe I am not a team player; maybe it was the technology that got the better of me because we were all studying remotely. Fortunately, this happened in only a few subjects. Otherwise, I enjoyed the course a great deal.

        1. OK, i can see now why you were thinking of “future employment”, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. A general arts or science degree can be very valuable even if it has no focus on the needs of future employment, and is arguably better for it. The same cannot even be contemplated for a teaching degree.

          It’s fine for you to have touched a nerve; the point is, it was a bad example. But “measure theory was replaced by box-plots” perfectly encapsulates the dumbing down of our world. (I am decidedly not an expert in measure theory. I am just an expert in teaching it.)

          The suggestion that you’re not a team player is hilarious: if you were any more collaborative we’d be talking about mathematicians’ Terry Numbers. You’re not being honest about why you didn’t enjoy the team work, but that’s ok. However, you didn’t explain why you enjoyed the course, or how that fits in with your agreement with the tenor of the discussion here. That genuinely puzzles me.

          1. I had great difficulty working with in a team of people by distance and having to come to a consensus on how a topic should be approached. I’d rather make my own mistakes. In fact, whenever I started a new subject, the first thing I would look for was whether or not team work was involved. Because our on-line cohort consisted on about 350 students, we were spread all over the place and group meetings involved technology.

            Why did I enjoy the course? I read lots of things that I would not have otherwise read. I learnt many things I hadn’t realised before – don’t ask me to give examples, because they are embarrassingly obvious to experienced people who read this blog. I had the opportunity to do a major research project which I really enjoyed. Over a summer, I did only one subject – luxury! I like being a student – I like being an on-line student. I doubt that I could go back to sitting in a lecture room as a student; now I am doing another course:

            https://www.acer.org/au/professional-learning/postgraduate

            and am half-way through. Next subject starts on Monday – it deals mainly with rubrics and related matters. In my small amount of experience in schools, I noticed that rubrics are all the rage, but mathematics teachers are slow to embrace this idea. I am curious to know why. That’s what I want to find out.

          2. I agree with your sentiment about the value of a BA or BSc. Nevertheless, if students have to pay a large sum of money for a course, then it is only natural for students – and their parents – to wonder about the return on the investment. This is why I started the first versions of Maths Adds in Bendigo:

            https://amsi.org.au/publications_category/education-resources/maths-adds-pub/

            Eventually it was produced by colleagues in Bundoora and then AMSI took it over.

            1. Yes, of course at least since John Dawkins and his fellow Labor thugs instituted fees, students should know what they are getting for their money. And, course universities are constantly lying through their teeth about this, and/or destroying the nature of university education.

  6. Many years ago, I worked in health care and was sent off to a one-day management course; why I don’t know; anyway, I heard on the grape-vine that a key part of the day was a sort of Briggs-Myer test that consisted on 100 true/false questions; you had to answer them quickly to indicate your gut reaction; then by magic it seems your score tells you about your potential.

    So the night before the course, I wrote out the first 100 digits in the decimal expansion of \pi. I turned 1’s into T and 0’s into F. When we were given the test, I simply copied out my 100 answers – and I was the first finished! Furthermore, I got the best score on the test in the group – most people are very hard on themselves when they think about these questions.

    Clearly I am foreman material.

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